Basha Pillay, Business Unit Leader for Modern Platform at Altron Karabina
Following the success Microsoft has had with its Azure data centres in South Africa, more global hyperscalers will start deploying data centres in not only the country, but Africa as well, to fundamentally change the cloud environment on the continent.
The resultant competition between different service providers will drive product and price innovation as the need to differentiate will be critical. Given the amount of opportunities that exist in Africa, there will be ample room for each hyperscaler to carve out its niche in the various markets. And from an organisational perspective, decision-makers have already moved from a legacy mindset into thinking cloud-first when it comes to infrastructure and application optimisation.
What further strengthens the potential of the cloud across the continent is the ubiquity of mobile. Many countries are mobile-only in their strategic approaches with the medium continuing to be a key business engagement channel. This mobile focus will play a pivotal role in driving cloud computing adoption.
With the number of hyperscale data centres worldwide expected to grow from 386 in 2017 to more than 600 by the end of next year, the potential of the cloud and its associated business enhancements will be too good to ignore for any organisation irrespective of its size or industry sector. And by having access to local data centres, the regulatory barriers of data sovereignty will become a thing of the past. Even network latency will be eliminated as access to these data centres will be virtually instant versus the slight delay experienced in linking to those outside Africa.
This will result in the democratisation of technology as entrepreneurs will now be able to access innovations previously only available to large enterprises. Things such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) will start permeating every facet of business much in the same way that technology has now integrated with everything we do.
Thanks to the availability of local hyperscalers, AI will embed itself across all elements of the digital workplace. This will optimise how people work and transform the end user experience. Eventually, AI will become part of normal operating procedure and merge into other background processes.
This has already resulted in the increasing use of platforms like Microsoft Teams redefining the ways in which people work and collaborate. Gone are the days where collaboration is limited by the size of employees’ email accounts. Thanks to the growth of the cloud, teaming will become the new norm and empower people to collaborate more effectively, deliver strategic business value faster, and unlock the potential of the data at their disposal in more innovative ways.
And thanks to the power of ML, the growth of chatbot interaction will see customers use these ‘self-help’ systems to address most of their basic concerns while relying more on human agents for complicated queries. As connectivity improves across the continent, voice and video will become standard tools in customer (and employee) engagement. Even though it might still be early days, the combination of virtual and augmented reality will bring the digital and physical environments closer together to create a new kind of workplace.
Furthermore, the pervasiveness of the cloud and hyperscalers across Africa will become vital allies in enhancing the upskilling strategies of organisations.
As part of this, gamification will be a critical tool in providing employees with the skills they need for a digital environment. When combined with scenario simulators, the learning process will incorporate a more natural, experiential component than was previously possible. This will provide employees with real-world exercises to deal with different situations to ensure they are better equipped for any eventuality across the corporate landscape.
All told, the hyperscale market will be one of great opportunities to drive cloud adoption, embrace collaboration, and reskill people for a digital world. Companies must be prepared to capitalise on this as quickly as possible.